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George Mason University’s Civility Project has been inspired by George Mason’s legacy of freedom and learning.  The Mason Civility Project is focused on promoting civility at Mason, in the local community and around the world.  Specifically, we have been promoting the core values of civil interactions in highly diverse communities at Mason.  We have assessed benchmarks in the field of civility across colleges and universities in the United States. Through this project we have initiated a dialogue across different constituencies to be able to establish and promote new standards of civil behavior across the university.  The methods for implementing these standards include the development of programming initiatives around the topic, Mason guidelines for civil behavior, protocols for uncivil behavior, and curriculum focused on civility as it relates to various disciplines.

Dr. P.M. Forni, a scholar at Johns Hopkins University, considered the leading author on civility has developed a set of tools to create respectful and positive interactions among members of a community.  We have selected nine civility tools as the pillars of our civility campaign, these are: pay attention, listen, be inclusive, don’t gossip, show respect, seek common ground, repair damaged relationships, use constructive language, and take responsibility. Through the Civility Project we foster these tools through different activities and programs.

Civility does NOT mean being passive even when you have strong beliefs that you want to express.  One of the core components of the Social Change Model of Leadership addresses the importance of expressing different viewpoints, but doing so in a civil manner: “Controversy with Civility” recognizes two fundamental realities of any creative group effort: that differences in viewpoint are inevitable and that such differences must be aired openly, but with civility.  Civility implies respect for others, a willingness to hear each others’ views, and the exercise of restraint in criticizing the views and actions of others”.

Source: Higher Education Research Institute (1996). A social change model of leadership development: Guidebook version III. College Park, MD: National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs.